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Texas online sports betting bill advances through to senate

Texas gambling news - sports betting bill gets House approval

On Thursday, the online sports betting bill, HJR 102, received the additional votes it needed in the Texas House committee to advance to the Senate for consideration.

The bill, which was authored by Rep. Jeff Leach, will legalize online sports betting in Texas. It will allow gaming licenses to be issued to entities like the Texas sports franchises, Class I racetracks and the PGA Tour. They will also be allowed to contract out with gaming companies.

HJR 102 initially received 97 votes on Wednesday, just three votes shy of the two-thirds requirement. After around 20 minutes of discussion on Thursday, the voting process commenced, and the bill passed by 100-42 votes.

Upon verification, the votes increased to 101-42 after it was revealed that a voting machine malfunctioned during the count. Around 11 members changed their votes, seven switching from a “no” to a “yes.”

During the meeting, Leach stated that $1 billion out of the proceeds of sports betting would be used to fund property tax relief for state residents.

The president of the Sports Betting Alliance, Jeremy Kudon, stated that Thursday was a “huge day for Texas sports fans” who had waited for the state to develop an interest in sports betting.

“For the first time ever, the Texas House considered and passed a bill to legalize sports betting,” Kudon said.

“This vote leaves no room for doubt — legalizing sports betting is popular in the Lone Star State. Texans want and deserve the freedom to safely and legally bet on their favorite teams, and they are one chamber away from getting it.”

Rep. Charlie Geren’s HJR 155, which will authorize the construction of destination resort-style casinos in the state, faired differently on Thursday. The Rep. requested and was granted three postponements to decide on a measure that would allow the people to vote on approving eight resort-style casinos.

The debate was moved to noon Friday, hours before the midnight deadline. The bill must reach the two-thirds requirement of 100 votes to be passed in the House during this legislative session.

HJR 155’s poor reception bodes ill for casino giants like the Las Vegas Sands, who have long expressed their desire to work in Texas. In response to their past efforts, conservative lawmakers listed out the adverse effects of gaming, including problem gambling and destruction of families, compared to the merger financial benefits of the activity.

The Texas Senate is another strong impediment to the casino bill. The committee has yet to discuss the topic of gaming venues in the state and could outrightly skip voting on the sports betting bill passed by the House on Thursday due to the lack of support.

According to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the bill support in the chamber was so small that scheduling either for a committee hearing was unlikely.

Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins spoke in favor of the sports betting bill, pointing out that several professional teams like the San Antonio Spurs needed the kind of revenue stream sports betting could provide. Rep. Julie Johnson also said that approving the measure would “transform women’s professional sports opportunities.”

One of the dissenters of the sports betting bill, Rep. Matt Shaheen, pointed out that rather than protecting people from gambling harm, legalizing betting would only serve to “support billionaires.”

If the Senate committee approves HJR 102, citizens of Texas will be given the opportunity to vote on the measure in November.

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